Eagle & Crane by Suzanne Rindell

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I had never read a title by Suzanne Rindell, but I chose this book from Net Galley since I love WWII stories. The novel centers on three main characters: Louis, one of the many children of a poor farmer who carries a grudge against the Japanese family next door; Harry, the son of the Japanese farmers; and Ava, a young girl who is part of an itinerant circus group. When their paths cross, the boys sign on to be part of an air circus, doing stunts in the sky. However, as WWII reaches the US, Harry’s family is sent to an internment camp and forever changed, while Louis must struggle with his family’s long-held feud, and Ava must decide where her love lies.

I really enjoyed this story and particularly liked the characters. It’s always fun to read about California, where I grew up, and in one scene they visit the Napa Valley (yeah!). I would love to see this novel made into a movie. I bet it would have beautiful cinematography!

This may be my first Suzanne Rindell novel, but it won’t be my last. Thank you for my review e-copy!

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THE GIRLS by Emma Kline

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Publishing today is one of the most talked about books of the summer: The Girls by Emma Cline. I found this on Net Galley several months ago and it was one of those books that I could NOT put down. Here’s the description:

Girls—their vulnerability, strength, and passion to belong—are at the heart of this stunning first novel for readers of Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad.
 
Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.

Emma Cline’s remarkable debut novel is gorgeously written and spellbinding, with razor-sharp precision and startling psychological insight. The Girls is a brilliant work of fiction—and an indelible portrait of girls, and of the women they become.

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First I have to say that Evie is an unforgettable character – so real and so well-portrayed in this novel, that it almost reads like a memoir. Evie is on the brink of adulthood and her sexuality, and her relationship – almost an obsession actually – with the group of girls surrounding a Mason-like character forms the backbone of this novel. It is disturbing, yet fascinating.

Ms. Cline’s writing is truly superb. This book almost dripped with the perspiration of the summer portrayed within its pages. You could feel the weightiness of the heat and the boredom portrayed within. Everything is so languid that you can hardly believe that it is hurtling towards the climax that is coming.

An amazing debut novel that you will not soon forget, THE GIRLS will continue to be talked about long after this summer is over!

Thank you, Net Galley and Random House, for my e-ARC.

HFVBTour for EMBER DAYS by Mary F. Burns

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Today I’m part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour for Mary F. Burns’ EMBER DAYS. I am still in the middle of reading this book (to be honest!) but it is a glimpse into life in California in the late 1950’s.

Here’s the overview from HFVBTours with a You Tube video:

Ember Days
by Mary F. Burns

Publication Date: April 1, 2016
Word by Word Press
eBook & Paperback; 352 Pages

Genre: Literary Fiction

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On the edge of the cultural earthquake that would be the 1960s, the tiny coastal village of Mendocino can feel it coming. Beat poetry, jazz, rebellion and art are spilling out of San Francisco onto the the northern coasts of California. World War II is laid to rest, but people feel restless. When a village son, now a priest, comes home to bury his mother, he finds his younger brother gone and a town full of secrets—some of them his own. Ember Days—the ancient prayers that mark the changing of the seasons—reveal the heart’s deep longings and fears in the face of truth and change, life and death.

 

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So – this overview above sounds a little serious, but the book moves quickly and is almost a bit of a mystery. How did the fires start and why? Where did the brother go? How are these characters going to change and develop and how will their trajectories impact the others?

Of course I love anything taking place in northern California since that’s where I grew up, but even more I love a good character story, and that’s what EMBER DAYS is.

About the Author

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Mary F. Burns is the author of ISAAC AND ISHMAEL, published by Sand Hill Review Press in November 2014. Other historical fiction includes THE SPOILS OF AVALON and PORTRAITS OF AN ARTIST (Sand Hill Review Press, February 2014, 2013), both books featuring the celebrated portrait painter, John Singer Sargent and his best friend, writer Violet Paget (aka Vernon Lee). Mary is a member of and book reviewer for the Historical Novel Society and a former member of the HNS Conference board of directors. Her debut historical novel J-THE WOMAN WHO WROTE THE BIBLE was published in July 2010 by O-Books (John Hunt Publishers, UK). She has been a regular panelist and speaker at the North American Historical Novel Society Conference.

Ms. Burns was born in Chicago, Illinois, grew up in the western suburb of LaGrange, and attended Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, where she earned both Bachelors and Masters degrees in English; she also holds a law degree from Golden Gate University in San Francisco.

 

Thank you for my review copy and for making me part of the tour!

Virtual Book Tour — Review of WATCH THE SHADOWS by Robin Winter

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I’m happy today to take part in the Virtual Author Book Tour of WATCH THE SHADOWS, a sci-fi thriller by Robin Winter. I don’t read much science-fiction, but this was a fun read (and very manageable at under 200 pages).

The story takes place in California and centers on a young “science-geek” Nicole. Strange things are happening and small animals (and people) start disappearing. Nicole seeks for an answer, but what she finds is so startling and unbelievable that people don’t take her seriously. Will Nicole be able to convince others of the danger they are in before it is too late?

I really enjoyed this story. If I told you more details, you might say, “What??”, but then, if I detailed a Stephen King classic you might scratch your head, too. When you read it, it just seems real.

I could see this book appealing to reluctant YA readers as well as those who’d like a quick read that sticks with them. I have to confess: the week after I read this book I was driving down a quiet road and a plastic bag blew across the road in front of me. Chills went down my spine.

Want to find out more? Look for it at an indie near you or online:

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Here’s some info on Robin, courtesy of the tour:

Robin Winter first wrote and illustrated a manuscript on “Chickens and their Diseases” in second grade, continuing to both write and draw, ever since. Born in Nebraska, she’s lived in a variety of places: Nigeria, New Hampshire, upper New York state and now, California. She pursues a career in oil painting under the name of Robin Gowen, specializing in landscape. Her work can be viewed at Sullivan Goss Gallery in Santa Barbara or on-line at www.sullivangoss.com/Exhibits/RobinGowen2012.asp

Robin is married to a paleobotanist, who corrects the science in both her paintings and her stories. She’s published science fiction short stories, a dystopian science fiction novel, Future Past , and Night Must Wait, a historical novel about the Nigerian Civil War.You may contact Robin or read her blog at : http://robinwinter.wordpress.com, or on her website: www.robinwinter.net

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Review: VERONICA MARS by Rob Thomas #2 Mr. Kiss and Tell

So I discovered VERONICA MARS on the plane last summer. I thought I was tuning in to a remake of the old flick “The Eyes of Laura Mars” (anyone remember that?) but then I realized I was watching some trendy teen solve mysteries. It was fairly entertaining and I enjoyed the movie. When I saw this book come up on Edelweiss I snagged it to review.

In this story, Veronica is hired to find out what happened at a trendy hotel in Neptune. A young woman was found raped and nearly beaten to death in a garbage dump after having visited the hotel the night before. She has no memory of that attack. Oddly enough, the hotel video footage shows the girl arriving and visiting the bar, but then leaving by the stairs and never exiting the building. A young hotel worker, who turned out to be illegal and was sent back to Mexico, is blamed for the attack. Veronica is not so sure, though. How did the victim leave the hotel? Is she telling the truth? And if she’s not, why not? These are just some of the questions that Veronica sets out to answer.

I enjoyed this book, though I think it would have helped if I had read the earlier book in the series (there were many references to it, though some were familiar due to the movie I saw). It is a fairly easy read and well-plotted. Veronica is plucky and smart. She has her issues with her boyfriend and with creating her own identity away from her father’s. I would definitely read another Veronica Mars book!

Thanks, Edelweiss, for my ARC to review!

Quick YA Review: “Hanging by a Thread” by Sophie Littlefield

Fitting in with my YA supernatural powers reading kick was this novel by first time author Sophie Littlefield. “Hanging by a Thread” is the suspense story of Clare Knight: new teen in town with the power to capture people’s emotions and memories from the clothes they wore. Clare has a gift for fashion and starts her own business designing and making over second-hand fashions. However, the town has a few dark secrets – such as what happened to Amanda Stavros, a teen who disappeared without a trace. Is Amanda dead? And if so, who killed her? When Clare discovers Amanda’s jacket in a bin of used clothes and starts getting emotions from it, she becomes determined to unravel the mystery – even if it means uncovering a murderer.

I really enjoyed this story, which was a quick read for me. The mystery was well-plotted and Clare was a likable character. It won’t release for a few months yet, but you can pre-order it on Amazon. I look forward to more from this author!

Thank you, Net Galley and Delacorte Books, for my copy to review!